It’s hard enough to come out as queer without also having to come out as a crime-fighter, but plenty of fictional women have done both. Since the early days of comics, LGBT plot lines have involved some of the most kickass heroes, whip-smart detectives and wicked villains ever drawn on the page. These larger-than-life women fight with pride, with a capital POW.
Batwoman (Kate Kane) – DC Comics
All enemies beware: she’s feminine, but there’s more than lipstick in this lady’s purse. First introduced in 1956, Batwoman got a reinvention in 2006 when Kate Kane showed up in Gotham City in 1952, and we learned that this new version of the character was both Jewish and gay. Like Batman, this Batwoman does not have any inherent super powers, instead relying on her own weapons, money and human abilities to fight crime. When she’s not rounding up bad guys, Kate is a coy socialite. She was romantically involved with ex-detective Renee Montoya, but after a terrible breakup, she began dating another cop, Maggie Sawyer. Kate came out to Maggie as Batwoman when she popped the question.
Karolina Dean – Marvel
First appearing in the 2003 Marvel comic Runaways, Karolina Dean grew up hiding her identity as a lesbian—and an alien. This extraterrestrial has the ability to fly and manipulate solar energy, creating a rainbow haze that trails her through the sky. Her sexuality is first alluded to when she develops a crush on a fellow female team member. Now, the peace-loving vegan (shocker!) is openly dating Julie Power, another gay superhero who often flies under the alias Rainbow Brite.
Karma – Marvel
One of the first queer comic book characters, the French-speaking, mind-reading, Vietnam War escapee first makes an appearance in Marvel Team-Up in 1980. But her sexual orientation remained ambiguous until she finally explained that her New Mutant companion Sam Guthrie—and all men for that matter—are “definitely not my type.” Karma is a powerful player in the X-Men universe; don’t mess with her.
Kennedy – Dark Horse
First a character in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series, the authoritative Kennedy lands in Sunnydale to help ward off evil, and quickly becomes infatuated with Buffy’s right-hand girl, Willow. The two become an item on the show, but in the comic book, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Kennedy grows distant from Willow, while Buffy, meanwhile, experiments with another lady slayer.
Lightning Lass (Ayla Ranzz) – DC Comics
Her ability to control electricity won her membership as a teenager to the Legion of Super-Heroes back in 1963, when she was first introduced in Adventure Comics. At the time, comic books took a conservative approach, keeping her long-term romance with Shrinking Violet somewhat in the closet, and only hinted at it by subtle innuendo. But whether it was early ‘60s prejudice or a galactic hail storm, nothing could keep these girls from being together. In the more recent Legion of Superheroes series, the pair is depicted discussing holiday plans, with Violet’s hand shown gingerly resting on Ayla’s hip—and it’s electric.
Silhouette (Ursula Zandt) – DC Comics
The Nazis killed the parents and sister of Austria-native Ursula during her childhood, and that was all the motive she needed to become Silhouette, fighter against child abuse and trafficking with the Minuteman in Watchmen. The heroine was known for her black top, red belt and an iconic cigarette between her lips. After being shot in combat, she fell for her nurse and the two became lovers. Similar to most of series creator Alan Moore’s endings, theirs was a tragic one; the two were killed in Ursula’s apartment by a supervillain and longstanding enemy. The Watchmen film makes the tragedy out to be a hate crime.
Mystique – Marvel
Hailing from the X-Men universe, Mystique is one of the more prominent characters on our list. Her relationship with women, specifically with Destiny, a member of her supervillain coalition the Evil Mutants, was kept under wraps until 1978 because of a Comics Code Authority rule banning the explicit depiction of lesbian and gay characters. But creator Dave Cockrum has said that Mystique and Destiny were always meant to be a couple. As a gift to us all, Jennifer Lawrence plays this shapely and strong opponent to the X-Men in the film adaptation.